Can a cop make me roll down my tinted window?

Do NOT need answers fast and purely a hypothetical.

Cop stops me for a traffic violation and asks to search my car. I say no. My back windows are tinted so difficult to see inside my back seat and cargo area.

He looks through my front window to “search” my car. He asks me to roll down my back windows to look in and I say, “I do not consent to a search.” He tells me that I need to obey a lawful order.

  1. Is having me roll down tinted windows to see my back seat a search?
  2. Do I need to consent?
  3. Noting he did the typical cop equivocation and he didn’t exactly state he was giving me a lawful order or that the order to roll down the window was lawful - is it actually a lawful order?
  4. If it is not a lawful order, what are my remedies if he arrests me on the made-up law?

He has a gun and handcuffs, so yes. You pretty much have to do anything he sez. That doesnt mean you can’t protest.

Of course if he orders you to do anything illegal, you can & should report him, or even sue.

In this case, a possible violation of your rights, about all that would happen is the the court might throw out any evidence thus obtained. It would take a good lawyer and some $$.


My rule is physically cooperate with the guy with the gun (with verbal protests as needed), and let the judge sort it out later. YMMV

Speaking of this “I do not consent to a search” factor, what happens if you verbally say “I don’t consent to a search”, the police officer decides he heard “yes, sir, officer, search away!” and searches your stuff.

He finds tags ripped off from mattresses and arrests you for the crime.

If no voice or video recorder was running, how can you possibly prove you didn’t consent to a search?

I would imagine that back in the 80s and early 90s, before recorders were common, everyone who *looked *like they might have drugs on them faced this issue.

Removing the tags is not a crime for the consumer, just for the seller & manufacturer.
You cant prove, but it appears the courts are pretty accepting of " I did not consent".

How about we stick to the legal answers and not the off-topic tangents.

Saying “I do not consent” to a police officer mostly ensures an entertaining YouTube video.

  1. the cop will radio for a K-9 officer to bring a drug-detection dog there to smell around your car. (This legally not a search of the car.)
  2. You are required to wait a ‘reasonable’ time for them to arrive. (‘Reasonable time’ is defined by the local courts. Generally, it has to be more than an hour for courts to object.)
  3. Meanwhile, the cop writes out a ticket for whatever traffic infraction he pulled you over for. And carefully inspects every external part of the car, lights, mirrors, dirt on license plate, for any other equipment violations.
  4. If the dog detects an odor of drugs, then they have probable cause to search your car. Completely, open all doors, windows, trunk, remove the floor mats, unbolt the seats & look inside the cushions, etc. The search is legal even if they don’t find any drugs. If they find something else (like an illegal firearm) in the vehicle, they may or may not be able to charge you for that. Courts vary on this, may depend on the exact circumstances.

IANAL but I think this would be covered under the officer’s need to ensure the area is safe. I would say a judge would rule that the police can legally give you orders if their purpose is to give them a clear view into the vehicle and make sure you aren’t holding a weapon or that there aren’t other people concealed in the back seat.

Loach, care to comment, please? It would help to have some actually factual answers here, instead of the pure speculation so far inhabiting the thread.

What’s the Sovereign Citizen National Anthem?

“Safelite repair, Safelite replace!”

This, when reasonable.

I have directed that a door be opened many times if there are people in the backseat above the age of a child and I have a concern for my safety.

I think the OP’s case was that no one else was in the car. If that seemed pretty clear, then I wouldn’t need to open another door. But if I’d seen more people in the car before initiating the stop, and now they’re not obviously in view, then that gets more serious. Part of my standard procedure is to get a sense of how many people are in the car and how the driver is behaving before turning on my overhead lights.

Every situation is different, of course, and practice is different than theory. Variables include day/night, is this an isolated area vs a busy arterial street, reason for the stop (i.e. suspicious vehicle vs everyday traffic violation), type of vehicle (I’ve directed drivers of “lifted” pickups to get out and walk back to me), whether there are backup officers, present, etc. Both me and many of my partners have gotten half-way into a stop and then realized with a sickening feeling we should have gotten the windows down or called for more officers first.

Hope that helps,


A few things to ponder:

  1. Is this North Korea? Why can the police “give you orders” in a general sense? Yes, they can ask you to step outside the vehicle, but that is the only thing I know that they can order you to do in this context. Even then, a Terry frisk only applies. They cannot order you to empty your pockets.

  2. Safe area. Again, Terry is the only doctrine I know of that allows an officer to check for safety.

  3. Clear view. Yes, an officer can observe something in plain view, but he cannot make you place something in plain view.

  4. Concealed persons. Does he have a reason to think you’ve kidnapped someone? Is having a rear seat passenger illegal?

With police officers spouting “I gave you a legal order” and “Officer safety” it would seem as if an officer could knock on your front door, ask to search your home and when you refused he could arrest you for disobeying his “lawful order.”

Short version: I know of no authority by which an officer could make you open your rear window in this situation. He may order you to step out of the vehicle, but that doesn’t get him a view inside. If he has probable cause to believe that there is illegal stuff in the back seat, he may search himself.

I assume we’re talking about US jurisdictions? In general, the 4th amendment is a little looser when it comes to automobiles; cops typically don’t need a warrant, but they still need probable cause for a search. I don’t know any case law off the top of my head on whether rolling down windows constitutes a search, but I believe it would be held to be such. A traffic violation is a bit broad; the mere fact that someone’s speeding or ran a red light would not constitute probable cause to believe the car contained contraband, but that plus, say, nervous behavior on the part of the driver might muddy the “totality of the circumstances” analysis somewhat. If the violation was severe enough to warrant arrest, they can search your car incident to the arrest.

Are the windows of legal tint? If so, ordering you under duress to roll down a back tinted window would be a search, yes. New York v. Class permitted officers to “move” papers to see a VIN, that was not a search.

Arizona v. Hicks, police moved items to record serial numbers of electronics, etc. that was a Search. Without moving the items the serial numbers could not be seen. When any extra effort or manipulation etc. is needed to view a position, that is a search, IMO. He already saw the view in the front seat.

Of course he could have ordered you out of the car, and while the door was open looked in. I knew of case more on point, but I can’t remember it now, I’ll try.

In Louisiana, anyway, the only tint that is regulated is front seat. The rear can be blacked out.

If this is true, the law is an ass. Night traffic stop, tinted rear windows. We won’t allow a cop to take reasonable measures to be able to see the interior of a car clearly enough to know whether there’s someone in the back seat?

What about asking the driver, “How many people other than yourself in the vehicle?”

The point is to ensure safety if someone has ill intent. How would that help?

You may as well ask the driver “are you planning to attack me?” The likelihood of an honest response to this question from someone with ill intent is equally probable.